Introducing: Abhilasha Bhatia

Our August Networking + Workshop event is less than a week away and we here at YWiB Toronto are more than excited to share this great opportunity with you. In anticipation for all the wonderful advice that will be shared at this event, we asked Abhilasha Bhatia, one of our Speakers for this night, why self-awareness has helped her to overcome barriers and succeed in the Tech field, a predominantly male dominated space.


You come from a diverse background, having been born in India, and working across both Canada and US in places like Silicon Valley. How have these life experiences helped shape the person you are today?

India is very diverse in itself. I spent a good 22 years of my life in India, mostly in my hometown, a primarily conservative city. Even then I was exposed to different languages, different religions, different ways of living and cultures. I think having a strong support system of people and resources around me who understood the importance of dreams and growth, helped me broaden my scope of thinking and develop an outward approach.

But yes, travelling from India to the US was definitely a culture shock. Who wouldn’t want to experience that though? I did my research on how’s and what’s of people, the education system, and the prevalent beliefs in the States before travelling. That said, experiencing the culture first hand was different. It definitely grew my breadth of perspectives about the world, and helped me value travelling and experiencing different cultures.

Having come from a patriarchal society and now working in a male dominated field, how do you think having so much male influence in your life helped or hindered your sense of self?

Being raised in a patriarchal society came with some benefits. Although I may have lost on opportunities such as playing tennis (there was only one sports club near my place and its management didn’t have a good reputation), or free reign over my free time because I was asked to come home on time and not stay out late with friends (on-time meant soon after college or before sunset), I did gain some things.

I built few but strong friendships. I developed an intuitive ability to sense threat and learned to find safe environments. I learned how to entertain myself with books (non-academic, of course), and even developed a sense of inner rebel which helped in building my resilience.

I also had access to computer and internet (not every one did), which allowed me to look at the world, not just around me but miles away. I think this access is perhaps one of the reasons you will find comparatively more percentage of women in STEM fields in India. In fact, when I joined university in North Dakota, I was definitely shocked to see that out of 35 students in my Computer Science graduate program, only 4 of them were women. None of those women were American. And this reality was also reflected in the job market.

Also, I have had the privilege of being mentored by wonderful human beings, mainly men. When I look back to particular times in my career though, male colleagues have been willing to include me in discussions or sporting activities only when I have explicitly shown curiosity and interest in it. I feel this has contributed to my consciousness levels both in positive and negative ways.

What are some of the ways in which you have observed harmful self-talk/self-belief in women (either yourself or women you know)?

I think that we tend to criticize ourselves a lot and also not own our successes enough. I think being self critical is good because it also means that you are holding yourself up to high standards (recently gained this awareness). But, it is also important to understand that you do what you do because of the experiences that you have had so far.

One thing I strongly believe in is that my journey and my experiences are unique. I do tend to fall into the trap of comparisons now and then, but I have built a way to address it and come out of it. I think there is value in seeing failures as lessons learned. But it is important to move on.

I am still learning how to own my successes enough. But as I said, it is a journey.

What are some of the ways you think we can overcome this harmful self-talk/self-belief?

Brené Brown says: “Talk to yourself as if you would talk to someone you love”. Try answering this question: if you care for someone, and they are in the same spot as you, what would you say to them at that particular moment? Say that to yourself.

What is the importance of self-awareness, particularly for women, in the professional space?

Ah, you see new opportunities and build the courage to go after them. Own your success, learn to make it vocal. Not suggesting to boast about it. But be aware enough about it to speak it. Ask for help and coaching in your workplace or outside of it.

What are some of the problematic norms you’ve observed in the tech space, and how have you gone about challenging them?

Specific to my field of work where you engineer a product, there are primarily two phases to the process: the critical thinking around solution building, and the implementation / coding phase. Since there are technical skills involved, it’s important for people to be skilled to a certain level. But as I have observed, there is also a culture that demands and supports very opinionated people, with no or little opportunity given to those who are not, or even to listening to all factors from other team members. This leads to uninformed or fast decisions around product building. This also drives low confidence levels of other team members who voiced their points or who ask for collective feedback.

I think it is important to be focused on the best solution to the problem. Being highly opinionated is good, but it’s only useful and effective when you back it up with reasoning and listening to the opinions and expertise of others. Diversity in opinions gives way to a resilient solution to the problem in hand.

As you continue through your journey of self-awareness, who are some of the women you look to for inspiration (and why)?

Indra Nooyi - A brilliant woman with high EQ, who climbed the corporate ladder for the top position at Pepsico. She inspires me because of the leadership insights she has given in her interviews: focus on what she could be the best at, focus on leadership quality of EQ over IQ, focus on closely working with direct reportees to make sure they are happy and successful in their work, focus on building workplaces with daycare facilities. In short, because she is a visionary changing the product’s brand to move beyond being being just a soda drink.

Abhilasha Bhatia, 'Abhi', is a Software Engineer at Finaeo, a growing Canadian startup in the insurance technology space. She has 5+ yrs experience working in the technology industry in Canada and US - Toronto, Silicon Valley, Tampa. Prior to that, she has 6 yrs of educational experience pursuing courses in Computer Science and Engineering. Abhi wants to use technology to engineer solutions for moonshot ideas that would take humanity to the next level, currently in the insurance industry with Finaeo.

Abhi grew up in India, in the city of Kanpur, in a family of 12 which included parents, grandparents, sibling, cousins, uncles and aunts. The perks of growing up in a big family were having a playful childhood with sibling and cousins and listening to anecdotes from grandparents. The family always encouraged and supported kids for higher education and picking up fields that would help in critical thinking and reasoning. Abhi feels this has been a crucial element in her upbringing that has helped her see different avenues that life can bring and explore awareness.

Abhi believes that it is important to educate young women about their rights, the importance of self-awareness, changing a mindset from feeling victimized to challenging norms and believing in themselves and always staying curious. She has been exploring leadership through people and books. She is very excited and looking forward to interacting with amazing women attending YWiB networking event!"

An Entrepreneurs Journey: Niduk D'souza

With our August networking night just a few days away, we would like to introduce our YWiB community to one of our featured speakers: Niduk D’souza from Impact with Intention. Niduk has helped hundreds of nonprofits raise more money, think strategically and implement their programs effectively, and at our networking night this Thursday, she will be teaching those in attendance how to ‘Pitch Your Way to Success.’ But until then, we hope you enjoy learning more about her journey as an entrepreneur.


Everywhere I look these days I see the buzz word of our time, ‘Entrepreneur’. Across LinkedIn, social media posts, articles and incubator programs popping up around the city, the message these days remains: become an entrepreneur.

As an entrepreneur myself, I find the rise of the entrepreneur era fascinating because our world struggles with disrupting the status quo. Our whole lives we are conditioned and trained to get a job and become a good employee. Attending school, tasking out classes by the hour, going onto university and developing a little more autonomy, we are still taught to ‘do’, and always with the intention to get a job and be a model citizen.

My entrepreneurial journey has always been wholly focused on building businesses with impact. Was this because I’m a woman? Perhaps. I recall attending a seminar once where a speaker mentioned this. Maybe it is the case that more women than men start social purpose businesses. Regardless, my personal values have always been rooted in supporting the most vulnerable beings on our planet. I remember when describing my business (helping NGOs, charities and social purpose businesses become more effective at what they do) to a relative who told me to go get a ‘real job’. This wasn’t the first time I was told that and to be honest, I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Ironically, while having dinner with this same relative 17 years later, they mentioned that now in their retirement they were focused on giving back. I laughed and said, “well, if you hadn’t been working in businesses that were taking in the first place, then you wouldn’t need to spend your retirement giving back”.

Aligning my values to my vision of the businesses I wanted to create has been fundamental to recognizing the type of life I want to lead

Aligning my values to my vision of the businesses I wanted to create has been fundamental to recognizing the type of life I want to lead. I knew right away businesses with social impact are what I value most. So it’s not a surprise that every business I have ever built or associated myself with has been tied directly to having a positive social impact. I have intentionally surrounded myself with entrepreneurs and business owners who are now lifelong friends. Learning from and building masterminds with them has helped me to grow revenue by landing 7 figure deals.

But here is what I believe my secret sauce to success has been - I’ve been very selective with whom I surround myself with. I have with intention, built myself a community of women business owners, a large number of them who also share experiences of migration, being a person of colour or who have also had to learn to live with chronic illness. There is strength and power in shared experiences and lessons. Community and adaptation is not learned in any certificate, diploma or degree program, even if they add the words culture, women, diversity and inclusion to it.

Developing clarity is one of the greatest investments an entrepreneur can make. Sadly, few do. My greatest successes as an entrepreneur have come to pass because I continually invest in sharpening my clarity on who I am in this particular season of my life and who I am serving in my businesses.

Clarity evolves, as you do. Over the years, this has led me to stop ‘pulling up a chair’ or ‘taking a seat’ at tables with people who don’t look like me, lack common experiences and the context of individuals who seek to serve the audiences I serve. So, I have built my own table.

This is entrepreneurial disruption.

In my experience, this is what we do as entrepreneurs. We build our own tables. Tables not for everyone, but specifically for those who we are looking to serve. By finding our community, building a table for purpose, we find ourselves in our most perfect niche, serving those we were always meant to.

By finding our community, building a table for purpose, we find ourselves in our most perfect niche, serving those we were always meant to.

It isn’t always easy being a South Asian woman building your own table; most tables are still surrounded by older Caucasian men and women. Some of them have read books and earned degrees that certify them as “specialists” or “experts”. Some of them are called to the table by a particular good, especially in the sector I work in. These tables often stand on legs built with institutional and colonial legacy and money, re-branded as investments, ultimately geared towards preserving and maintaining the integrity of specific ways of life cloaked in the ‘do-gooder’ complex. These were never tables designed for someone who looks like, dreams, or thinks like me. 

Here is the real secret I’ve learned about tables. They are never permanent.

Here is the real secret I’ve learned about tables. They are never permanent. At this point in time, we are seeing a lot of discord around the world because traditional concepts of the table are being challenged by disruptors. That is us. The entrepreneurs finding our niches to serve. 

 If you are interested in learning more about Niduk’s work with social entrepreneurs, visit:

Niduk D’souza has been a nonprofit leader and advocate for over 17 years. From working with grassroots community organizations across Africa and Asia to large donor organizations in the UK and North America, Niduk has helped hundreds of nonprofits raise more money, think strategically and implement their programs effectively. In 2006, Niduk helped to build Kenya’s first free children’s library - Nguuni Children’s Education Centre. Over a decade later, over 100,000 children have read, studied and played here.

In 2018, she launched her latest social business, Impact With Intention, an online educational platform for nonprofit leaders. Taking her years of experience teaching and practice in the field of helping nonprofits both online and in-person she has designed this educational and learning resource for small nonprofit changemakers and leaders to strengthen their capacity across 4 pillars: Governance; Fundraising & Communications; Project Management and; Monitoring & Evaluation.

Niduk has also recently joined the leadership team at UP Fundraising, where she is leading a new division focused on fundraising strategy and stewardship.

Previously, Niduk founded and ran an international development consulting practice working global across all major development focus areas. In 2018, her practice was acquired by PGM Africa. She has also served on the boards of a number of nonprofits from development charities such as The Haller Foundation, Livingstone Tanzania Trust to arts-based nonprofits such as The Red Betty Theatre.

Earning the Max Rotman Humanitarian Award, Niduk is also recognized as a community influencer for visible minorities and women by the Canadian Armed Forces.

Niduk holds a Bachelor of Arts specializing in Industrial Relations from McMaster University. She conducted a review of minimum wage policy in Ontario for the Ministry of Labour. She continued further academic work in worker’s rights, economics and law, at the London School of Economics and Political Science earning a Masters in (Economics) International Management and a Masters in Research Methodology and Statistics at Middlesex University while pursuing her doctoral research. Most recently she completed a case study on Coal Mining in Mozambique and the Leading of Nonviolent Social Movements at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She has published and presented at numerous conferences.

Introducing YWiB + SickKids Activators

Did you know that millennials are more generous than both Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers?

According to research, the total number of millennials giving to charity exceeds the previous two generations, despite having less resources to give, and millennials are going beyond just monetary donations. For example, a study by the Millennial Impact Project found that 72% of millennials are motivated to raise money for a cause with which they felt a personal connection. With 62% of millennials believing they have the power to make a difference in their community, and 40% believing their efforts have the potential to reach a global level, what’s stopping so many of them from getting involved?   

At YWiB Toronto, we have witnessed an eagerness to help within our own community, but at the same time have observed a lack of knowledge on how to approach volunteerism and philanthropy, that is why we are constantly working to find ways our members can contribute more to their local communities. With that in mind, we are pleased to announce that we are partnering with the SickKids Activators program to offer you the  opportunity to get involved and make the difference you’ve been looking for!


The SickKids Activators program is an excellent way for young professionals to use their skills and experience to help those in need through fundraising and event planning. As an Activator, you’ll create and manage an event within your community or industry that raises a minimum of $10 000. Fundraising proceeds will go toward funding the work and equipment of top medical staff and researchers, while offering organizers access to social networking opportunities, mentorship, and support from the SickKids team. Here at YWiB we believe in giving you the tools you need to create your own success, and this is an awesome way to start!  Learn from the best, while also making a difference in the lives of the next generation of leaders! 

Are you interested, but not sure where to start? For details on the program and to see upcoming events hosted through the SickKids Activator program click here.

There will also be a special SickKids Activators announcement at our next YWiB networking event on August 22nd. Join us for the opportunity to chat one-on-one with a SickKids Activator team member! If you are unable to make it, feel free to reach out to one of the team members at:

Introducing our SheMentors Program

As part of our new strategic plan, we’re thrilled to announce the launch of our very first mentorship program: SheMentors. A program tailored to meet the needs of its community of young professional women across the Greater Toronto Area.


The Why

We, as humans, are not always wired to be in growth mode. We get tired and burned out. We get often distracted by other life responsibilities piling on our shoulders. We set goals and fall short, and on top of all this, due to socially and politically constructed beliefs, we as women continue to face barriers to our personal and professional growth.

This is why we’re launching our first mentorship program, to help YOU, our community to re-focus, and continue down the path towards a growth mindset.

The What

SheMentors is a 6-month mentorship program tailored to meet the needs of YWiB Toronto community members including the Newcomer; the Entrepreneur, and the Seeker.

Our aim is to provide every young woman with an inclusive opportunity to leverage their professional and personal growth through mentorship, and also to provide other well-established women with the opportunity to give back to the community through knowledge-sharing and mentorship.

We believe that once each one of us finds a mentor experienced in the areas we are truly passionate about, those growth moments will present themselves, and success will be inevitable!

The How

Learn more about this program here.

Ready to Dive in?

Fill out the forms below:

Event recap: Learning to Unlearn: Self Management for Personal and Professional Success

The YWiB Toronto Team and Workshop Facilitators

The YWiB Toronto Team and Workshop Facilitators

How many times have you set up a goal, only to watch yourself backtrack within a few days? Goals are key catalysts for change and growth, and act as road maps to guide us towards what is meaningful to us. Yet so many of us find ourselves struggling to pursue these goals or find ourselves overwhelmed by the plethora of obstacles that come in the way.

It is here that mobilizing one’s energy, and organizing available resources comes into play. Despite our best intentions and readily available tools, we often find ourselves in situations where we can’t seem to get unstuck because of learned behaviour in the past. This was the theme of the highly informative and inspirational workshop by our facilitators.

Regardless of how much time you spend on Netflix, there is rarely anyone completely unaware of the phenomenon of Marie Kondo. A revolutionary approach to home organization, that has taken up the society and social media landscape by storm. But what if there was a way to “spark joy” in terms of your goals? What if you could throw out harmful habits and keep the ones that bring you happiness?

Effy Nicopoulos

Effy Nicopoulos

Our first facilitator and Certified KonMari Consultant, Effy Nicopoulos, introduced us to a novel way of organizing our goals, and analyzing our motivations. Are all goals equally important? Through guided questions and exercises, participants were given more insight into accessing the valence of their goals, and to asses which goals were worth keeping.

A memorable line from the workshop was “Don’t commit to anything in a year, if you wouldn’t feel like doing it tomorrow” (sic). In a society where we are being told to prioritize so many competing goals and aspirations, this way of thinking can help salvage the few goals that in fact matter to us personally and save us from the turmoil of should’s and shouldn’ts.

Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta

Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta

After getting equipped with the tools to filter the goals that matter, the participants were given resources to reach those meaningful goals by our second facilitator, Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta. As a Change Management Strategist, Yvonne brought with her tools that can help one break free from barriers and constraints and achieve great success.

An extraordinarily powerful approach was performing a SWOT Analysis on oneself. For the uninitiated, A SWOT Analysis is a tool used by business management to access the company’s strengths, weaknesses, external opportunities, as well as external threats. Participants were given a chance to perform their own SWOT analysis and were encouraged to share with the audience. By hearing women share their personal struggles and strengths was empowering and a powerful learning experience.

Yvonne also spoke about the importance of mindset. Every situation can be dichotomously considered a threat or an opportunity, depending on one’s state of mind. She also provided the participants with a framework for change, and strategies to make effective changes. Perhaps the most powerful was Yvonne’s openness to sharing her own story and encouraging the women in the room to create positive encouraging relationships that help them grow.

With summer upon us, this is a great time to dust off those goals, discard the ones that don’t serve you, and strategically pursue the ones that do. And if staying cool this summer is a goal, then nothing better than ice cream to spark a little joy!

Written by Aashima Makol


Additional Resources

The YWiB team created a great workbook with resources and links to help you in your journey to achieve your goals. Check it out here -> Resources Handbook.

Also, check out Yvonne’s article for YWiB where she answers why change management is an essential skill and why how you view yourself affects your career. Check it out here —>


Getting Involved with YWiB

Thank you for attending our event. We hope that we have provided a  meaningful workshop and facilitated new connections today. Please consider joining our community!

If you want to chat about Sponsorship opportunities, or a Custom Corporate Program for your organization, contact us directly at

Learning to Unlearn: Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta

Our first event of the year is just over a week away and we here at YWiB Toronto are more than excited to share this great opportunity with you. In anticipation for all the wonderful advice that will be shared at the workshop, we asked Speaker, Change Management Strategist, Author, and one of our amazing facilitators Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta why change management is an essential skill and why how you view yourself affects your career.


For those who don’t know, what is change management and how does this play a role in one’s career?

Change Management can be seen as both a role and skill in a professional setting or organization, and in a personal setting, it can be seen as both an ability and skill.

 As a profession, you have Organizational Change “Management” and “Manager” roles that are often responsible for managing the people side of changes in technology, regulatory or business initiatives taking place within an organization.

This is also becoming a critical skill for professionals as we now work within a fast-paced business environment that is constantly changing. Now more than ever professionals are required to lead and drive these changes as part of their day to day jobs or on behalf of their organization.

As well, it is also an ability necessary for us to more effectively facilitate the changes in our lives to help us achieve our personal, professional or family related goals. How we go about making the needed changes is a process that needs to be managed with some level of effort. Because we also live in an environment that is constantly changing, we need to have the ability to evolve to either stay relevant in our professions or remain stagnant and lose out on living our best lives. 

Our members are made up of a diverse group of women, but a lot of them are young, having recently graduated from college/university. A lot of them might not be thinking about the long-term and instead are focused on their immediate need to find a job. In that case, what advice would you give to those more concerned with finding a job than necessarily building a career?

In reality, there are bills to be paid, and finding a job as a means to an end is definitely worth considering. Getting to our long-term job goals does not often take a linear approach, there will be twists and turns. Should you choose to take a detour along the way such as getting any ‘job’, be sure to not get completely distracted that you lose sight of your long-term game and goals; don’t stop working towards your ideal career path. Where possible, be strategic in finding any ‘job’ (i.e. getting a non-ideal job, but in an organization that you would like to work in someday, thereby providing you a leg in).

Also do your best on that job, because you never know how what you may be learning on the job becomes valuable in the future or who you will meet in the process. I remember my first job out of university, it was not my ideal job, something I would not even think to put on my resume long term, but it was the job that ended up getting me an ‘ideal’ and high paying job down the line. So never despise small beginnings.

Many of our members have expressed their interest in changing careers within the next year. What advice would you give those looking to try something new?

  • Be clear on what you want, and if you are not clear on what you want, research the various areas that potentially interest you, and speak to people in those roles or a get a coach to help you gain clarity.

  • If you are clear on want you want, then your next step is to determine what is expected of the role in terms of skills and experience. You can do this by looking at job postings for the types of role you are interested in, as well as speaking to people in a similar career.

  •  Networking at professional events related to your area of interest is also a good way to learn about what is happening in that industry, as well as connecting with peers and like-minded professionals. Note, I did not say use networking as means for meeting people to help you get a job; that is not what networking is about. Networking is about forming relationships, and it is through these relationships you can learn about needed skills, opportunities and even get referred for jobs.

  • Look for opportunities within your existing organization, most especially when you are looking to change careers and you have limited experience. Internal transfers are more accommodating of limited or no experience, and willing to train you to help support your professional development.

For more information on transitioning careers or taking it to the next level, I recommend this workbook I developed from my experience with coaching clients and delivering career development workshops.

 In your experience, what has been the biggest challenge for individuals when it comes to change whether personally or professionally?

Mindset. This includes self-limiting beliefs that hold us back. When you are able to train and focus your mind on how you think and view things, this has significant impact on being able to drive the types of changes you desire. With both my clients and myself, I have seen that for every personal or professional goal we have achieved or not, it often comes down to mindset. Your attitude (mindset) will determine your altitude. It also comes down to desire, how much do you really want it and how much work are you willing to put in relation to the change you want to see in your life.

Click  here  to get Yvonne’s book: The Change You Want! Change Your Mindset and Change Your Life

Click here to get Yvonne’s book: The Change You Want! Change Your Mindset and Change Your Life

Particularly when it comes to women in the workforce, how have you seen mindset play a role in professional success?

One would be Self-belief. The ability to believe (or not believe) in ourselves is huge. We have to be willing to step out of our comfort zone and away from the age old nurturing trope that has the potential to limit women in the workplace. For instance “not being forward”, waiting to be given or chosen for an opportunity, and not asking for that job, role, responsibility or promotion that we want, believing that we have to be perfect or fully ready before we go after that role, or not being bold enough to lean in, step forward and let our voices (work and expertise) be heard.

As a woman of colour yourself, what kind of challenges have you faced throughout your career and how has changing your mindset helped with overcoming them?

Whatever challenges I have faced in my career, be it one of colour or otherwise, I have intentionally chosen to turn a blind eye to it in order not to give it ‘life’ and allow to take shape in my mind. I see whatever challenges I may have faced the same as every other challenge; focusing on what I can do to overcome it, and choosing not to personalize it. Where your focus is, is where your energy will flow. I choose to be positively focused.

Since our focus for this event is on both personal and professional growth, how do you see the two interacting in your own life?  Have you had trouble balancing the two in the past? If so, how did you overcome that?

To me, both personal and professional growth are strongly aligned. I’m tempted to say the same actually depending on how you define personal goals. You cannot grow professionally if you are not growing personally. Also, when your personal goals are congruent to your professional goals, I believe this creates more harmony and a sense of balance internally. For example, if one of your personal goals is health and wellbeing, what you achieve in this area such as your mental and physical health will help you be more effective and successful as a professional. Or if your personal goals are financial, chances are that what you do professionally is tied to this goal. Or if your personal goals are family, what you do professionally will impact your family goals.

If you would like to learn more about Yvonne and Change Management please visit:

Celebrating Women in Leadership

Celebrating Women in Leadership - YWiB Toronto

Why celebrating Women in Leadership?

We have dedicated this week’s theme to celebrate Women in Leadership. We do so because we know that women should support each other in attaining leadership roles and build alliances with decision-makers at the workplace. Thus, with celebration also comes an appreciation of women’s persistent efforts to achieve change and to remove the “im” from “impossible.”

When we reflected on the four waves of feminism, we realized that even though 2018 was coined as the year of women with movements such as the #MeToo and #TimesUp, we still have a long way ahead of us. There is still a lot of disparity at the workplace, where women are not being equally treated nor equally paid, especially at senior levels such as the C-Suite and board levels.

We also believe that some organizations look at gender diversity as a way to reach a certain quota or as an act of tokenism, rather than thinking strategically about the real impact of their contributions. We know that women’s leadership attributes are maximized not only when they're given access to the boardroom, but also when they're included in decision making. Their high level of emotional intelligence, creativity, and innovation, contribute largely to the success of an organization, its sustainability, and impact.

Women in leadership positions in Canada - What impedes women from being in leadership roles?

The 2018 Rosenzweig report examines the top 100 largest publicly-traded corporations in Canada, based on revenue, and how many top leadership roles are held by women. Their report examined 540 Named Executive Officers (NEOs) at Canada’s 100 largest corporations. NEOs are the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), and other C-level executives named in a corporation’s management circulars. Their research found that of 540 executives, 51 are women and 489 are men. This year’s progression indicates that female participation is at a new high of merely 9.44%, up from 9.02% the previous year.

The report also notes that more than 60% of university graduates are women, and social movements such as #TimesUp and #MeToo have gained widespread support on social media and in pop culture. These numbers and movements have brought renewed importance to the call for wider female participation in leadership roles.

If we look at the reason behind the low rates of female representation in leadership roles, we can see a troubling trend. Due to socially-constructed beliefs and often complex circumstances, women take on the responsibility to care for their family & children, and this is even today, considered as the primary role for women. Therefore, getting back or being in the paid workplace is considered an ‘additional’ or ‘side’ responsibility only. This makes it even more difficult for women to move forward with their careers. These false beliefs, among others, contribute largely to the gender disparities at the workplace.

In the corporate world, C-suite or senior management level positions are predominantly occupied by men. Lack of representation translates into lack of awareness of the positive impact of female In the corporate world, C-suite or senior management level positions are predominantly occupied by men. Lack of representation translates into lack of awareness of the positive impact of female leadership. Lack of awareness translates into a lack of visibility and future consideration. Women have to break through the ‘glass ceiling’ to be able to move up the corporate ladder. And even if they do get a seat at the table, this is often seen as an anomaly rather than the ideal norm. All of these and many other complex reasons translate into organizations believing that women are simply not suited for the C-suite when the truth is a lot more complex and nuanced.

What are we hoping for?

We hope for things to change, and this can happen through:

  • Adopting policies that support women in leadership roles, and promote gender diversity and inclusion on boards and C-Suite levels. Organizations also need to adopt policies that support working moms and all types of women.

  • Publically celebrate and recognize companies and organizations that support their own female employees and female senior-level leaders.

  • Women need to support each other instead of competing for one seat at the table. Doing so reinforces the “it’s an anomaly” perception and further cement the glass ceiling. Advocating and championing for more women to be included and heard not only benefits the organization but helps everyone's professional and personal growth.

  • Organizations need to adapt to the changing workplace. Millennials are now dominating a lot of industries and they have different mindsets. They thrive on diversity, inclusiveness, and true equity. Organizations would need to put new strategies in place that respond to the new culture brought by Millennials. A culture that fosters ethical decision making throughout the organizations, and rejects inequality in all its forms.

  • Women striving for more management responsibilities, often feel pulled in multiple directions between personal and professional lives, and this creates ‘confidence crisis.’ By reinvigorating mentoring, coaching and development programs, companies can help women build a path to achieve their leadership goals. Change comes from within and cultivates in a supportive and nurturing environment.

Join us in celebrating women in leadership this week, they are the role models, trailblazers and an inspiration for many others. Only if we stand together, shall we succeed together.

By Lara El Shawa & Daisy Gao